New Offerings From Top Makers

New Offerings From Top Makers

The latest in Bauer reels, Winston rods... and a Loon Outdoors cornucopia

  • By: Buzz Bryson
Bauer MacKenzie Z Fly Reels I'll admit to enjoying Bauer reels ever since I bought an original M-series reel when Jon Bauer introduced them in 1995. In fact, the reel was named the Best New Product of the show that year. The original M-series is no longer, as Bauer has continued to produce new models. Among the latest is the MacKenzie Z, or MZ, which combines a quick-release spool and a frame-side drag adjustment knob in a finely finished reel. And if that's not enough, it's in the mid-range price point.The MZ continues to use the proven cork/polymer drag system with the zero-backlash clutch. However, unlike the original M-series, the MZ's drag mechanism is sealed against the frame. A couple of strategically placed foam-rubber-like disks help to seal the mechanism against any nasties (salt, sand and the like). The MZ is machined of aluminum alloy and stainless steel, and uses four ball bearings to ensure smoothness. There are no plastic parts or bushings. Jon Bauer clearly did his homework on the original M-series reel's dimensions, and he didn't fix what wasn't broken. The proportions and design of the reel are, to my mind at least, optimized for line/backing capacity, retrieval rate, balance and, yes, looks. Speaking of looks, the MZ-series are nicely polished, and available in Jet Black or Pearl Gray, as well as optional spool colors. Available in seven models, matching line sizes 2/5 through 11/13. $325-$495. Winston Boron IIx Fly Rod The new Boron IIx rod says "Winston" right out of the tube. Beginning with the brightwork on the reel seat and cork as good as can be found anywhere and continuing though the blank, with its perfectly aligned guides and glass-smooth finishing, my sample 8-foot, 4-piece 5-weight was no less than the exquisite product we've come to expect from Winston. As comforting as it is that Winston has maintained its production standards, I'll admit to a bit of a rush in anticipation of casting the rod. Winston claims that these new rods "have the widest casting range of any rods we offer." If you haven't been paying attention in recent years, Winston has broadened its range of offerings far beyond its traditional trout actions. Without abandoning those-or the overall trademark smoothness of Winston rods, the company now offers actions from the (slo-o-o-w) Retro models to the (very, very fast) XTR models. So, after grabbing my favorite 5-weight line, I set out to test the IIx. When casting short, the rod loaded right up, turning over the leader well, throwing curves and slack-everything you'd expect and need for line management up close. More than happy with the close-in work, I extended the line to the middle distances, and the rod pretty much duplicated every cast I'd made previously, but flexing a bit more down its length. Finally, I reached out to typical long cast distances, and even tried some parking-lot casting. Again, the rod responded easily, flexing deeper, but never folding. I have to say, the rod was impressive. It cast smoothly, it cast crisply, and it did both easily. Most importantly, I was enjoying the casting, not working at it. The IIx is available in 17 models, in 8- to11-foot lengths, and covering 3- through 12-weight. All are 4-piece, and prices range from $595 to $655. Loon Most of us fly anglers have our vests, gear bags and tying tables festooned with various Loon Outdoors products. There's more in '04. A sampling of neat, environmentally friendly items follows: While the UV curing products aren't new, the handy Loon UV Kit is. In addition to containing tubes of UV Knot Sense and UV Wader Repair, the kit incorporates the handy UV Mini Lamp. Face it: While we'd all prefer to patch a leak immediately when we find it on the stream, it's not always easy. And if we wait 'til getting back to the house (motel, tent, truck…), we often won't have the sunlight needed to cure the sealant. Thus, Loon has included the lamp. Although not quite as fast-curing as UV from the sun, the 30-40 second curing time is still far quicker than alternative adhesives. The kit retails for $26.00. For some time, Loon has made a really first-class wader bag (and that's understating its usefulness, as it has multiple compartments to hold your vest, shoes, reels, extra fly boxes and more). However, for those who are into the ultimate in simplicity, the company now has a simple mesh nylon bag (with carrying straps) that's plenty big enough to hold waders and shoes. And yes, it's "airy" enough so that waders will dry hanging in the bag, not that any of us would forget to take them out to dry. Retail is $12.95. For tiers, Loon has expanded its popular Hard Head water-based polyurethane head cements by adding four pearlescent colors: white, blue, red and green. They'll add a bit of sparkle to your flies. $6.95 retail. Wade Deeper Bauer Fly Reel 888-484-4165 www.bauerflyreel.com W. L. Winston Rod Company 406-684-5674 www.winstonrods.com Loon Outdoors 800-580-3811 www.loonoutdoors.com